A landlord is typically not responsible for injuries caused by a tenant’s pet to a third-party. However, there are some important exceptions t this general rule. Three of the more common exceptions are:

1. Landlord’s Knowledge of the Animal and It’s Dangerous Tendencies

A landlord could be held liable by a third-party injured by their tenant’s animal if there have been prior attacks, and the landlord knew about those attacks. Even in the absence of prior injury, some courts have found liability if a landlord witnessed the animal exhibiting threatening behavior, such as:

  • Lunging
  • Growling
  • Snapping 

In some cases, even the landlord’s awareness that the tenant used the animal to protect and guard the premises was sufficient to hold the landlord liable to an injured third party.

2. Landlord’s Control of the Premises

Landlords may be liable for injury to a third-party if a tenant’s animal attacks in a common area of the premises such as a stairway, yard, or hallway because landlords retain control of these areas.  Additionally, if the landlord and tenant share the same building, the landlord might be considered to have control over the animal, particularly if the landlord benefits from the animal’s protective services.

3. Landlord’s Assumption of the Duty to Make Premises Safe after an Attack

In some cases, a landlord who promises to have the tenant’s animal removed after it attacks will be found liable for negligence if the landlord subsequently fails to follow through. A duty of due care is imposed on a landlord who has the right to have a vicious animal removed from the property. If a prior attack made it possible to evict the tenant for violating the lease or to have the animal removed, the landlord is likely to be found negligent for failing to do so.

When to Consult an Attorney

The law regarding a landlord’s liability for dangerous animals varies considerably by jurisdiction. If your tenant keeps an animal which may be dangerous, you should speak with a local landlord tenant lawyer to better understand your rights and responsibilities.